Preparing for College

Student Summers: Siestas or Stimulation?

Summertime and the livin' is easy. Well, maybe not anymore, with the pressures of life -- even for high school and college students -- here in the year 2012. I remember how I used to look forward to summers when I was in elementary, middle, and high school. My warm-weather enthusiasm was somewhat less in college, though, because I always attended summer sessions. In any event, now that it's summer (assuming that your not reading this in the fall, winter, or spring), and you're a student whose summer looms before you, you may have an important decision to make: What will I do with all this non-school time?

Will you be spending a lot of time with your DVR watching Grey's Anatomy and Breaking Bad? Or, will you be executing a plan -- any kind of plan -- to keep your brain from turning into, in the words of Professor Kingsfield, "a skull full of mush"? Three months is about 90 days. When you come to think about it, that's enough time to accomplish a lot, or a little, sometimes very little to nothing, if you're not focused and organized. So, I'll ask a question by paraphrasing Paul Simon: What's your plan, Stan?


In looking for some wisdom about figuring out a plan for summer, I found some good advice from Roxanne Peplow, a career expert and instructor from Computer Systems Institute. Here's what she says: 

Keeping students’ minds busy in the summer is no easy task, when thoughts turn to sun and fun! The idea is to always remind students of their goals, to harness their motivation, and to remember the cost of procrastination in the long run. We are very goal oriented in my classroom. We stress that for goals to be effective they need to be realistic, attainable, and measurable. You can’t have one without the others –

1. Can you actually achieve the goal?

2. Are you capable of accomplishing the goal?

3. Can you track the progress of reaching the goal?

If they let the train run off the tracks, then their goals become compromised and at risk of failing to achieve them – which no one wants. Our success is their success.

I am also a big proponent of “ownership”. Students must be reminded that they need to take ownership of their actions, and ultimately their futures. Ownership requires being responsible, accountable, and reliable. So if they blow off a class or text their friends during a lecture, they have no one to blame but themselves. It’s all about preparing them for the professional world. Remind them to ask themselves: Would you do that on the job? Would your fellow co-workers appreciate that? How would that help to build or maintain a professional relationship? I always ask my class “Who’s the boss of you?” to which they always reply, “I AM!”

I encourage students to never stop learning - It’s a lifelong endeavor. Whether it’s picking up a book, or making a perfect cappuccino, they are still learning. I challenge them to learn something new every day, and remind them that if they are not – then they are cheating themselves out of an opportunity. Learning is power, and the more power you have, the more valuable you become to a potential employer. Also there is no better self-esteem booster than knowledge. Self-esteem is a huge factor to a student’s success. When they have a high self-esteem, they have a high performance expectation, thereby putting in an increased effort, which lowers anxiety, and leads to actual success. Remind them that hard work does pay off – success is a consequence of effort!

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Solid advice, indeed. However, for those of you who don't have a plan and won't even think about making one, here are a few of ways to waste time, either at home or at a summer job:

- Add up a series of numbers: your social security number, your date of birth, your telephone number, etc., to see if the total is divisible by seven.

- Add up your debts.

- Annoy a friend.

- Argue with a friend about who is the best football quarterback ever.

- Arm wrestle with your boyfriend or girlfriend.

- Arrange a protest march for a cause you believe in.

- Arrange a new seating plan for your next Thanksgiving dinner.

- Arrange unpaid bills by date order.

- Ask a friend to help you make your own list of wasteful tasks.

- Ask your grandpa what grandma was like when she was young.

- Avoid stepping on the gaps between sidewalk paving stones during your next walk.

- Balance a pen, pencil, knife, and fork across your index finger . . .

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If you're really focused, you may be able to achieve most, if not all, of these time wasters this summer. Honestly, though, in my professional opinion, I would prefer that you just read a good book!

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Be sure to check out all my college-related articles and book reviews at College Confidential.